Strategies for Dealing with Unfair Treatment in the Workplace

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against their employees on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, disability, or membership in other protected categories. The law does not prohibit an employer from taking negative actions against employees for other reasons, such as nepotism, favoritism, office politics, and the like. Yet employees who lose their jobs for these reasons, or who endure harassment or bullying which is not “discriminatory” in the legal sense, often suffer the same emotional and financial upset as do victims of unlawful discrimination. What are some strategies for dealing with unfair treatment in the workplace?

I would advise anyone experiencing negative treatment in the workplace to immediately begin to diary or journal the events as they occur. If the situation worsens and becomes legally actionable down the road, the written record can be important evidence in your case. In addition, the act of writing down your problems can have a cathartic and healing effect.

Next, you should report the unfair treatment to your Company’s human resources department, preferably in writing. Yes, I know, they won’t do anything about it. But, again, the main reason for making the report is to create a paper trail which may come in handy down the road. There is also the slight chance that they actually listen to you and try to help you.

If you have documented and reported the unfair treatment and it still persists, you should seriously consider changing jobs. Situations like these tend get worse over time, not better. I’m speaking from personal experience, as well as what I’ve learned from counseling employees for the last ten years. You will wind up quitting or getting fired some time down the road anyway, and in the meantime you will be extremely stressed out, lose sleep, get depressed, angry, or anxious, all of which can lead to more serious health problems. No job is worth losing your health. The decision to leave a job on your own terms, on your own timetable, is an empowering one. Just make sure your job search does not interfere with your current job duties or violate any non-compete agreements you may have signed. It goes without saying that you should never quit a job until you have secured a new one.

If you are an employee caught in the gray area between unfair treatment and illegal discrimination or retaliation, consider speaking to a competent employment attorney who can lay out your options and help you make an informed decision about your next career move.